Camp Tomlin / Day One: Polamalu signs 5-year extension
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Sweat dripped off Troy Polamalu's face as news hounds surrounded him on the grassy Chuck Noll Field yesterday, peppering him with questions about all that new money.
The five-year, $33 million contract with the $15,375,000 in signing and roster bonuses he received from the Steelers yesterday makes him the highest-paid player in team history and the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
His signing bonus of $10,975,000 is the largest the Steelers have ever paid, topping the $9 million they gave Hines Ward two years ago.
The sun beat down on him as if it were Southern California, a place Polamalu reportedly -- erroneously -- wanted to play when his contract with the Steelers ended.
"This is home," Polamalu said softly. "I didn't want to be a player that was jumping from team to team. I've always felt comfortable here. This organization and the tradition they have here is very legendary in that sense and I always wanted to be part of that."
Polamalu and the Steelers completed a rather smooth, non-public contract negotiation that for a couple of weeks seemed destined to get done by the opening of training camp. The deal was reported just before the Steelers took the practice field at Saint Vincent College yesterday afternoon for the first time under new coach Mike Tomlin.
It also contrasts sharply with the contract impasse the club has had with six-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca. He reported on time yesterday, reiterated this will be his final season with the team and said he's not frustrated that Polamalu received a contract extension and he will not.
"No, I'm happy for Troy and that's the way it works. Troy deserves it and I'm happy for him."
Polamalu said he wishes Faneca could also achieve an extension.
"I feel for Alan," Polamalu said. "It's a shame. He has a wife and kids and a lifestyle to uphold. You hope you can get something done that's fair."
Polamalu, who has made every Pro Bowl since he became a starting strong safety in 2004, said that's precisely what he was looking for in his deal. He had one year left on his 2003 rookie contract. The Steelers tore that up and created a new five-year deal that binds him through the 2011 season. Under his old deal, he was to earn a salary of slightly more than $1 million this year. His new deal will pay him $600,000 in salary this year.
"First and foremost, it mattered to me that it was a fair contract. A lot of people are making a lot of money out there. I wanted it to be very fair and I wanted it to be here. Those were the most important things."
He said there now is more pressure on him to continue to perform at a high level.
"It means that I have to work harder and go out and earn it. That's what it means to me," Polamalu said. "So it's very exciting, especially for my wife and me. We feel very welcome in the city and I think this contract really puts our roots down here."
The Steelers made Polamalu their top priority almost as soon as last season ended and have been quietly negotiating for one month with agent Marvin Demoff.
"Troy Polamalu is a very special football player who has been a key ingredient to our success over the past few seasons," Steelers president Art Rooney said. "We are excited to know he will be a Steeler for many seasons to come."
At 5 feet 10 and 207 pounds, Polamalu plays a unique brand of safety, lining up in various positions. Coordinator Dick LeBeau has designed many of his defenses to take advantage of Polamalu's ability.
"I think both sides are very happy to get this done very peacefully without any feelings hurt or anything like that," Polamalu said.
Dan Rooney, the team's chairman, also was pleased with the contract.
"It's a tremendous thing," he said. "He's a great person and a great player. He means an awful lot to the team on the field and off."
Polamalu's contract may be the last one the Steelers negotiate this year. They have not held talks with any other veteran who has one year left on their contracts. Those include starters Clark Haggans at linebacker, Kendall Simmons at guard, Max Starks at tackle and Dan Kreider at fullback. They previously extended the deals of defensive linemen Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke this year.
They've also made it clear that they will not open negotiations to extend the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger until next year, when he has two seasons left under the six-year deal he signed as a rookie in 2004.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette photos
Troy Polamalu is all smiles during running drills in Steelers training camp yesterday at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
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No-nonsense Tomlin looks forward to camp (07/23/07).
Schedule: First practice open to the public is 2:55 p.m. today.
Where: Saint Vincent College, Latrobe.
First preseason game: 8 p.m., Aug. 5 vs. New Orleans in Canton, Ohio.
First home preseason game: 7:30 p.m., Aug. 11 vs. Green Bay.
Leading the way in running drills, Alan Faneca is followed by Kendall Simmons and Ben Roethlisberger yesterday.
Click photo for larger image.
First Published July 23, 2007 11:32 pm